I received the following question:

I tried that interpretation of “doesn’t marry nor given to marriage” on some people, where the view says that given to marriage means someone else decides your mate, and marry means you decide for yourself.

They said that given to marriage means how a woman marries.  We even have the carry over in our weddings where the prospective groom asks the father for permission to give his daughter.  And in the wedding itself we have the minister asking who will give the bride.  From looking at it – they seem to have a point.

Do you have anything to back up the argument you told me years ago that I don’t know about.

The passage we were discussing occurs in three of the gospels, the most complete example of which is found in Luke 20:34-36:

34.  Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.
35.  But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;
36.  nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

The point I would make about the phrase, “marry and given in marriage,” is that it is referring to the “business transaction” of marriage.  There are many aspects to a marriage arrangement, and we tend to think of it much more as a matter of love today than as a matter of business…looking at it as a business venture would seem very “un-romantic” to us now.  However, in the time of the Bible, marriage was considered much more from a practical, “business” type viewpoint.  The fact was that a man could find it very difficult to live without a woman to help him in a multitude of ways, and a woman would find it very difficult to live without a man to support her.  Thus, marriage was often looked at as a practical necessity, and the business of marrying someone was thus viewed as a practical thing rather than a matter of “falling in love.”  To marry, then, was what a man did when he went out and arranged for a woman to marry him, and to give in marriage was what a father did when he arranged for a man to marry his daughter.  It was considered as a transaction between the two parties, and was perhaps the most crucial aspect of business a man would ever engage in.  Thus, this phrase, “marry and give in marriage,” was used as a figure of speech for carrying out the everyday, common, business relations of life!  We can see it used this way in Matthew 24:38-39:

38.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39.  and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Here, marrying and giving in marriage, along with eating and drinking, is used as a figure for carrying out the everyday, necessary business of life, just as eating and drinking stand for those everyday actions that we all do to sustain life.  Marrying and giving in marriage were considered basic, crucial business transactions.

I don’t know if “marry” means to decide for yourself and “give in marriage” means to have someone else decide for you.  Marriages could be arranged in different ways.  Depending on the situation, the couple might have a say in whom they are marrying, or the man might have a say but the woman might not, or neither might have a say.  It all depends on the family, on the situation, on the parents, on the age of the couple when the marriage is arranged, and so forth.  At any rate, the “dating” culture of today has no Biblical equivalent, so finding your own mate as we do today would not be the idea expressed in either term.  I think it is really referring to the same transaction, just from the viewpoint of the two different parties involved: the man and the woman’s father.  If I ever seemed to express otherwise, I either spoke unclearly, or else have come to a better understanding since.

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